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No, The Disciple Is Not Oscar Material

Mama Mia, here we  go again! The  minute  one of our films gets recognized on  a global platform we start dreaming of  finally bringing  an Oscar home.

But  sorry, not happening. This time it  is Chaitanya Tamhane’s  The Disciple which was  being seen as  our great  big hope at  the Oscars . However  the one quality that  would make an Indian film  eligible  for an Oscar in the  international category is  universality. That, I am sorry to say, Tamhane’s labored take on the  death  of  Hindustani classical vocals is sadly lacking.

Every time we  make the mistake of sending films with  a pungent rigid  parochial flavor to the Oscars. Every time we  come back disappointed. The reason why Lagaan is the  only  Indian film in living memory to have made  it to  the  Oscar shortlist is  because  its theme  of the underdog winning over the rulers rung a bell all over the world.

 Which bell can  The Disciple with  its deep-dive into  the  degeneration and downfall of  the Indian classical musical ethos, possibly ring at the Oscars? Sure, the fact that  Alfonso Cuaron has  mentored the  director and  the film would draw some surplus notice. But by and large, the film’s appeal is way too esoteric  and its emotional  arc much too curve-less to attract  an Oscar nomination.

 So let’s not even go there.Unless  we want to come back  looking like red-faced losers once again. Old habits die hard. Which, ironically is one of the themes of The Disciple.Let’s  just say the  Film Federation  Of India didn’t  reward  the  film for being so painfully selfconsciously  and smugly superior in tone.In this country we often mistake mental masturbation  for high art.

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